M&S to return £2.3bn to shareholders

Takeover target Marks & Spencer is to return £2.3bn (€3.4bn) of cash to shareholders and focus on its core business as part of a strategy unveiled by chief executive Stuart Rose today.

Takeover target Marks & Spencer is to return £2.3bn (€3.4bn) of cash to shareholders and focus on its core business as part of a strategy unveiled by chief executive Stuart Rose today.

Rose will today also justify to shareholders the board’s decision to reject a £9.1bn (€13.6bn) takeover bid.

Mr Rose, who was only named as the retailers new head last month, believes the 400p a share offer undervalues the group.

He will today try to justify this to shareholders, offering also to cut costs and close under-performing parts of the business.

Mr Rose, 55, has a long history of involvement in the retail sector, and was considered a favourite to head the troubled high street chain following the resignation of the group’s chairman Luc Vandevelde.

He also has a history of turning around struggling retailers, after boosting the fortunes of Arcadia, whose brands include Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins.

He started his retail career in 1972 as a management trainee with Marks & Spencer, and over the next 17 years he held a variety of roles in textiles and food, eventually becoming commercial director heading the company’s European division in Paris.

In 1989 he moved to the Burton Group, which later split into Debenhams and the Arcadia group, joining Debenhams as a buying and merchandising director, before becoming managing director at Dorothy Perkins.

In 1994 he was appointed to the board of Dorothy Perkins and became chief executive of Burton Menswear, Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Principles.

In January 1998 he was appointed chief executive of Argos, before heading Booker, one of the UK’s largest food distributors.

But it was when he joined Arcadia as chief executive in November 2000 that Mr Rose confirmed his reputation as the King Midas of British retailing by turning around the company which was lumbered with more than £250m (€375m) debt.

He was credited with reviving the group’s fortunes by concentrating on its main brands and selling-off its non-core chains.

Ironically, he eventually presided over the £855m (€1.3bn) sale of Arcadia to Mr Green in 2002, making £25m (€37.5m) out of the deal for himself.

He has built a reputation as a savvy and meticulous retailer, a reputation cemented by the Arcadia sale and earlier in his role as chief executive of Argos.

When Mr Rose was appointed to M&S, Mr Vandevelde said he could leave with the “comfort that the company is in the best hands”.

But it remains to be seen whether Mr Rose can convince shareholders that the board was right to reject Mr Green’s offer and whether he can turn around M&S’s fortunes.

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